Serenity Later

This is one of those cases when I’m genuinely sorry to have been right, but “Serenity” is officially a box-office flop. Despite all the glowing reviews and sparkling word-of-mouth from the converted, the movie never crossed over to a larger audience. After just over two weeks in release, “Serenity” has only grossed $22 million, and won’t come close to earning back its production budget of $39 million, much less the money Universal put into promoting it over the last several months.

The good news is, in this day and age the box office is not even remotely the last stop for a feature film. Given the size of the established “Firefly” fan base, the movie will certainly turn a profit on DVD (and it won’t surprise me if that release is rushed up, perhaps to just before Christmas). Based on how well that disc sells, creator Joss Whedon may well get the green light for a sequel or two–but they won’t be appearing in your local theater. Direct-to-video is much more likely. It’s very doubtful that Whedon would get another $39 million each to make them, but I imagine he could do pretty well with a half or even a third of that.

Still, too bad, and also a reminder that “blogosphere buzz” has its limits in the larger world.


35 Responses to “Serenity Later”

  1. DrObviousSo Says:

    My friend suggested that they make a direct to video Season 2. I’d rather get that than a couple of direct to DVD movies.

  2. Josh Says:

    I didn’t see it in the theater but I still intend to rent it (perhaps buy it). I’ve never seen Firefly tho.

  3. Brian Tiemann Says:

    Definitely worth taking in at least a few episodes of Firefly first, Josh. Find a friend who has the DVDs and borrow them if you have to.

  4. Daniel Says:

    Actually, they’ve already announced that the DVD will be released on December 20th.

    It is a shame that “Serenity” isn’t as much of a box office success, as it was a filmmaking success. I can’t get too upset about it, because it was a miracle that it even got made in the first place.

  5. Lileks Says:

    Having never seen the original series, I wasn’t up to speed on the story – which made it a rental, not a ticket. But at least I knew what it was about; to anyone outside the target audience, it must have looked and sounded confusing. “Serenity” sounds a movie in which Shirley MacClaine sits in a rocker and argues, lovingly, with her spunky estranged daughter as they watch the sun set on Lake Serenity.

    “Two-Fisted Space Pirates” might have worked.

    The trailer didn’t do much for me, either; the frail-&-silent-child-with-AMAZING-POWERS thing might have been more compelling if I’d known more about the show, but it all felt like I was coming in during the middle of one of those interminable gnarled anime plots. Not to say I won’t see it, or that I doubt it’s good; just didn’t make me arrange for a babysitter on the spot.

  6. Will Collier Says:

    … and James pretty much summed up what I figured most people’s reactions would be.

    For whatever it’s worth, the series is worth either picking up on DVD (it’s cheap) or Replay/Tivoing off SciFi, where it’s currently being rerun.

  7. Angie Says:

    How can more people not be watching this show at the movies — it’s excellent! And loads of fun to watch.

  8. Julie Says:

    I think it was worth the ticket price just to see it on the big screen. Sometimes big is better.

    Serenity is a bad title… Fire Fly is too… and the reason I never saw it on television was because of some vague notion that it was some New Age-ish psychic thingy… Shirly McClaine, indeed.

    Call it Reavers, maybe. That might have worked for marketing. Maybe something with the word Battle in it?

    The problem seems to be the same thing that makes it good. It’s hard to quantify. What’s it about anyway?

    Maybe we could think up a *good* title and send it to Joss Whedon for next time.

    How about, Gettin’ Paid.

  9. Billy Fish Says:

    Thats too bad because it was probably the best Sci Fi show since Babylon 5.

  10. BeckyJ Says:

    Well, “Serenity” is going on my Christmas wish list along with the “Firefly” DVDs, that’s certain.

    I do hope there is at least something to follow up, a second season would be great. Maybe SciFi channel will do it?

  11. michael Says:

    If you had seen the show on TV (I saw them all at once on DVD), then the movie was an extra episode. The dialog mostly worked because you knew who all the characters were.

    If you hadn’t seen the show, I think the movie would just be another action picture, full of cardboard characters. The effects weren’t that interesting, and without character development, the action wouldn’t be very satisfying. I’m not surprised it had a limited run.

  12. Julie Says:

    I hadn’t seen any of the television episodes and while I’ll agree that people who had got extra value, it was still a character show. No one was cardboard.

    If it was a straight shoot ’em up, we wouldn’t be here having this conversation.

  13. michael Says:

    Julie, I think Mal, River and Simon get a reasonable amount of screen time. The rest of the characters are pretty thin. Some of them only get a couple of lines! In the series, there are whole episodes for some of them.

    The battle sequences are Star Trek level, as is the overall script. Not horrible, just not enough for an audience who hasn’t seen the series.

  14. holdfast Says:

    The names (serenity and Firefly) really suck – I’m a huge sci fi fan but never saw the series due to lack of promotion and a dull name. Now seen about half the episodes on sci-fi, and have ordered the discs. The movie was good but a little too much crammed in, so the character development was weak. I already knew and liked the characters – my wife, a Firefly novice, found that she couldn’t really get into them.

    Still, Sci-Fi channel is doing really well with BSG – so they just might be ready to give this show another chance. They’re showing it in reruns on Friday, which is good exposure due to the proximity to BSG ang SG-1.

  15. Moe Lane Says:

    Lileks: love the Bleat, love Screedblog, love the books, you are so going to kick yourself for not watching the television show earlier when you finally do.

    But that’s OK. It happened to a lot of people. Including me. đŸ™‚


    PS: I could live with a direct to DVD Season 2, although I think that the CGI would take a hit.

  16. Scott Janssens Says:

    Because of certain events that occur in the film, I have no interest in seeing future films or episodes.

  17. John B. Says:

    Um, Scott J…”Because of certain events…”

    what the hell does that mean? Is that a vague compliment or a vague insult. Or are you just avoiding spoilers.

    I agree that Firefly and Serenity are terrible titles. I totally missed Firefly when it was first run and I love Sci-fi and Joss. How the hell did Fox screw it up that bad?

    Now watching Firefly on DVD. Yea, I like it. Quirky, certainly. I mean, its a western. No, wait, it’s sci-fi. Um, no, it’s about a sea voyage. Damn, there are more horses on Firefly than there are on Deadwood.

    All in all, it was probably doomed from the start. It should have been on the Sci-Fi channel anyway, were it could have at least had a chance to develop.

    And I just learn that Fox showed the episodes out of order. Tools.

  18. Robert Says:

    “New eopisodes coming to the SCI-FI channel soon” is something I expect to hear in the next few months.

  19. Steven Taylor Says:

    It wasn’t exactly released at a good time.

    And I wonder how many folks are like me: intrigued, but fear getting hooked on something that won’t survive (which leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy).

    Also, I rarely go to the movies.

  20. charlie eklund Says:

    I do not expect new episodes coming to Sci Fi, or anywhere else…sadly. I think the movie mined the Firefly vein as deeply and thoroughly as Joss Whedon planned to.

    What I’d really like to see is a Buffy feature film, but I don’t expect that to ever happen.

    I was surprised to learn that James Lileks isn’t hip to the whole Firefly scene. I assume, from that, that he’s equally unfamiliar with the Whedonverse of Buffy and Angel. If so, I recommend that he buy Buffy Season One on dvd forthwith. Much, much televisual enjoyment awaits!

  21. RPD Says:

    In spite of “certain events” I’ll be more than eager to view any more Firelfy, should it appear.

    I missed most of Firefly on TV. Fox rarely broadcast two episodes in a row without pre-empting it for a month. I think it was on Fridays, which is a busy evening anyway.

    My biggest question about Whedon now is “What’s next?” I’ve never been disappointed by him, and hope he gets involved with episodic TV again soon.

  22. winefan Says:

    Sadly, I am not surprised the movie hasn’t done better at the box office. I was a huge fan of the series and eagerly anticipated the movie. Half an hour into the movie it struck me that Serenity was never intended to reach a broad audience. Rather, it was a lovingly crafted eulogy for the series. Whedon gave us fans an amazing “thank you” in Serenity, how he ever convinced Universal to give him $39 million to do it is beyond me. I’d love to see more of this ‘verse either as films or a continuation of the series, but I suspect Whedon knew that wasn’t going to happen and that’s why we got the movie we did. Kudos to Whedon and shame on Lileks for not seeing the series (and B5) sooner.

  23. Ginpundit Says:

    I’m confident that “Serenity” will do well on the DVD sales and rentals. I’m also hearing that it’s currently doing well overseas, particularly in the U.K.

    Being a big fan of both the TV show and movie, I am disappointed it didn’t do a *little* better on box-office revenues. But as mentioned above, there were some questionable marketing strategies given that the show had a cult following and needed a bit of a mainstream paint job to get more bodies in the seats.

    Much like the other Whedonverse properties, “Firefly/Serenity” is extremely smart and well-crafted. It’s audience will continue to grow, and word-of-mouth should bring in considerable post-box-office bucks.

  24. Tom Says:

    I keep reading about how I, never having seen Firefly, was supposed to be confused by Serenity. For the record Serenity was not the least bit confusing. It was a straight up sci-fi western with a sense of humor, lots of satisfying explosions and – unlooked for but quite gratifying – a strongly anti-socialist message. I saw it twice. More, please.

  25. Jeff Harrell Says:

    You know, in all the talk about what went wrong

  26. Matt Moore Says:

    Has anyone ever been as consistently wrong as Jeff Harrell?

  27. Grant Says:

    Battlestar Galactica is working for Sci-Fi, and they are still cranking out mediocre but somewhat entertaining “Stargate” eps. How can they not want to pick up Firefly? Unless, of course, Whedon has no interest in doing a cable show.

  28. Eric Says:

    From what I have read (i.e: I can’t remember where the link is, to lazy to find it) Fox still owns the rights to Serenity and (for now) will not relenquish it. Whedon doesn’t want to work with Fox after how they treated the show so don’t expect a “Family Guy” style of return.

    My hope is that somehow the Sci-Fi channel can talk some sense into Fox and get the rights to the show.

  29. Stormy70 Says:

    Fox bastards! My husband saw the pilot episode then saw the movie. He was hooked and he does not hook easily. He is a gamer and the only TV he watches is sports related, so when he wanted to watch all the episodes aftr the movie, I knew it was special. I want a sequel, I needs it!

  30. Anachronda Says:

    What I’d really like to see is a Buffy feature film, but I don’t expect that to ever happen.

    Been there, done that, it was great fun.

  31. charlie eklund Says:

    Not that Buffy. The real one.

    The real fictional one, that is. The one we’ve come to know and love.

    The original movie was okay, but just okay. The series…the series was a work of genius.

  32. philw Says:

    I watched Firefly on Fox and liked the series despite the egregiously bad astronomy. Good characters and fun dialog. HOWEVER, I’ve found the re-runs on scifi unwatchable which has cooled my desire to see Serenity. I’ll rent the DVD.

  33. Julie Says:

    At the very start of Serenity I had to laugh out loud… maybe the second statement in the whole movie was “It took decades to terraform all the worlds.” Later, I decided it was a brilliant (if still funny) way to stay up front… don’t even *think* of disecting the astro-physics, that’s not what this is about.

  34. Julie Says:

    *say* up front. argh.

  35. richard mcenroe Says:

    Belated Serenity Review — A regrettable lack of nekkid teenage lezbeen witches.

    We have to give up the notion that Joss had the slightest idea of this movie as a science fiction movie. Having gone to the trouble of establishing that humanity emigrated from the ruined Earth to a whole new pinball-machine solar system with moons and planets bouncing off each other like a free ball off the bonus points bumper, he then proceeds to use

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